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Oxford aldermen review final details of proposed budget

Sales tax collection is expected to increase for the sixth year in a row in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, surpassing more than $9 million, according to city officials.

The fiscal year runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. With just one more month in this fiscal year, sales tax collections are expected to hit $8.8 million by the end of September, and climb to $9.5 million in 2017.

“The projection is based on the average 8 percent increase we’ve had each year since 2011-2012,” said City Clerk Ashley Atkinson.

Mayor Pat Patterson said the projected sales tax is about $900,000 more than the city originally figured when preparing the budget. However, he told the Board of Aldermen Tuesday in a budget hearing he would rather not budget to spend the $900,000 since the money “isn’t in the bank quite yet.”

“And something could come along during the year that we may need to pay for,” Patterson said.

The assessed value of the city has also increased from $365,629,830 in 2012 to 462,864,959 in 2016. While that means revenue from ad valorem taxes increases, Patterson said it also means so does the amount of services the city has to provide. However, the millage rate has only gone up 3 mills in the past 10 years.

In 2014, the aldermen agreed to raise it 1 mill for three years to help pay for new roads and other major capital projects. The last 1 mill will be added to the 2016-2017 budget, bringing the city’s millage rate to 30.22.

During the long meeting Tuesday, the aldermen also reviewed the entire budgets and hammered out some last minute details which included adding a part-time site inspector in the planning department at $25,000 a year and added an additional code enforcement officers position in the Oxford Police Department at $34,000.

Currently, there’s one officer dedicated to code enforcement; however aldermen and Police Chief Joey East said another officer is needed to keep up with the amount of work there is in patrolling city neighborhoods and making sure city neighborhood codes are being followed.

The board also approved a new marketing and communications director position for the Oxford Park Commission, who will handle all of OPCs marketing in-house and update the website and social media networks. They budgeted up to $32,000 for the full-time position. They also approved hiring a full-time Leisure Lifestyles director at $32,000.

To help the city go paperless and save money and paper, the aldermen approved spending about $14,000 to provide for 12 iPads and data plans for aldermen and selected department heads.

“We sometimes get these 1-inch ordinance changes three times for each reading in our packets, and I just felt that’s such a waste,” said Alderman Robyn Tannehill, who suggested the purchase.

Patterson directed city staff to obtain quotes from local providers to obtain quotes for the iPads and internet packages.

There will be a budget hearing on the budget at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall during the aldermen’s regular board meeting and the aldermen are expected to vote to approve the budget during a special meeting before Sept. 15 when the budget must be adopted by state law.